Day before SC primary, Trump talks Nikki Haley, policy issues in front of Rock Hill crowd

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ROCK HILL − Former president Donald Trump visited Rock Hill Friday as part of a final campaign push in South Carolina ahead of Saturday's Republican primary.

After an introduction by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, Trump talked about rival Nikki Haley, the southern border, and the economy, among other topics. Trump spoke to an enthusiastic crowd that nearly filled Winthrop Coliseum, which seats 6,100, not including the additional floor seating.

Greenville County Councilman Benton Blount, a finalist on Season 10 of America's Got Talent, sang the national anthem in front of the crowd.

As rally attendees filtered in, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), and U.S. Rep. William Timmons (R-SC) warmed up the crowd in the hours before Trump took the stage at 4:30 p.m.

"Donald Trump is going to get our country back on track...we are going to send a message tomorrow. Everyone has to vote," Timmons said.

Scott, who also appeared at a town hall in Greenville with Trump earlier in the week, received a standing ovation and the loudest applause of the speakers early in the program. At the rally, Scott sang the praises of Trump's support for law enforcement and the military and said Trump will bring "law and order" and "world peace" as president.

On Friday, Trump again praised Scott. At the town hall Tuesday, live-taped for Fox News' The Ingraham Angle, Trump teased Scott as a possible vice-presidential pick.

More: Trump, Haley visits put Greenville at the epicenter of the Republican primary election race

Trump talks Haley, policy, IVF at Winthrop University

During the rally hosted by Winthrop University, Trump spent about 90 minutes revisiting many of the same topics he covered in Tuesday's town hall such as immigration, the economy, and Nikki Haley. He also encouraged South Carolinians to vote and mentioned the recent Supreme Court decision on in vitro fertilization in Alabama.

"Tomorrow you're going to cast one of the most important votes of your entire life," Trump said. "And honestly we're not very worried about tomorrow, we want to aim towards November 5th."

Trump boasted confidence in his chances against Joe Biden and Haley. Praising McMaster, Trump said he did the South Carolina crowd "a favor" by ridding the state of Haley as governor.

Haley was governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017. After being selected by then-president-elect Trump following the 2016 election, she served as a United Nations ambassador from early 2017 until October 2018, when she resigned.

Trump said he wants to strengthen the security of the southern border and repeated claims regarding what he called "migrant crime."

He also promised to improve the country's economic state and predicted "the largest stock market crash we've ever had" if he loses the November general election.

Trump reiterated his support for the right of families to use IVF and called on the Alabama state legislature to produce a solution. The Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled that frozen embryos are legally protected as children.

"The ultimate joy in life is a beautiful, healthy, wonderful baby," Trump said.

Trump also touched on his legal issues, foreign policy, and unfounded claims of election interference, among other topics.

Trump supporters speak out at Rock Hill rally day before SC primary

Waiting in a line that snaked around Winthrop Coliseum on a windy, overcast afternoon, some supporters of Trump talked about why they attended the rally, policy issues they consider important, and Haley, the state's former governor.

Supporters of the 45th president said they attended the rally to capitalize on an opportunity to see Trump in person for the first time.

For Frank and Tammy Slavens, of nearby Clover, the event was too close not to miss.

"We've never actually gotten close to any president in our lives, yet," said Frank Slavens, 63. "Here in Rock Hill, we're not far away."

Justin Fairhurst, 40, said he has wanted to see Trump for a while and lived in New York before relocating to Charlotte.

"The only way I could see Trump was if I went to one of his sham trial appearances. He doesn't do rallies in New York," Fairhurst said. "I'm down here to support my neighboring South Carolinians and Trump."

Policy issues and general support for the former president in his re-election bid also influenced turnout.

Paulette Propst, 65, and Chris Gunter, 38, both of Rock Hill, said Trump's America First stance influenced their support of Trump over Haley.

"Americans come first, and that's where Trump stands," Propst said.

"Nikki Haley took our Confederate flag down...she's not good for us," Gunter added.

The border was a recurring theme of supporters' reasons for choosing Trump, including Slavens.

"Our economy was way better when he was in charge than who they've got now," he said.

Along with the border, Fairhurst said inflation, science, and freedom of religion were among the determining factors in casting his ballot for Trump.

"I'm here for more reasons than I can count," Fairhurst said.

Andy Cast, 39, of Charlotte said freedom of speech is an important issue to him, and opposes cancel culture.

Trump, Haley campaigns stump across South Carolina

After the afternoon rally, Trump was scheduled to speak at a gala hosted by the Black Conservative Federation in Columbia. The event began at 6 p.m., though Trump did not conclude speaking in Rock Hill until that time.

On Saturday, Trump will host an election watch party at the state fairgrounds in Columbia at 8 p.m.

More: When should we see results from Saturday's SC Republican presidential primary? What to know

Haley spent the latter part of the week in the Lowcountry, with stops in Mt. Pleasant and Moncks Corner.

Trump's son, Donald Trump, Jr., was also in the Lowcountry, holding an event on the campus of The Citadel in Charleston, before a 3:30 event in North Charleston.

Both candidates spent the week crisscrossing the Palmetto state ahead of Saturday's primary including stops in Greenville. Trump started with the town hall for The Ingraham Angle. During the Tuesday afternoon event, he talked with host Laura Ingraham about Haley as an opponent and discussed Scott as one option for a running mate.

More: Did you miss it? How to watch Donald Trump's Greenville town hall event on television

Trump reportedly held a pricy fundraiser later that evening. A swathe of supporters met his visit to the Upstate, but also some protesters.

Haley spoke Monday night in Greer followed by giving a "State of the Race" speech Tuesday in Greenville where she vowed not to drop her campaign despite polls that have her lagging behind Trump. She ended Tuesday at Clemson, her alma mater.

Chalmers Rogland covers public safety for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and USA Today Network. Reach him via email at

This article originally appeared on Herald-Journal: Before SC primary, Trump talks Haley, policy in front of Rock Hill crowd